Aesthetic Exploration: Swimwear

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Thinking about the snow outside, getting into a hot tub becomes a relaxing thought. However, something that doesn’t cross the mind is what to wear. The general assumption is that everyone would wear a swimsuit. From this, my question became, how did swimwear emerge as a modern-day afterthought and is there an aesthetic behind the creation of swimwear? The most general answer is that there is an aesthetic factor tied into most items that we use on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis. For swimsuits, the aesthetic factor developed over time as the driving force considered as function turned into fashion.

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With societies perception of beauty and aesthetics changing, fashion and swimwear is no exception. In fact, the swimsuit was first created in the 18th century with the sole purpose of covering up in order to maintain morality. The gown itself was known primarily for bathing since swimming was uncommon [1]. Additionally, the swimwear also typically included stockings, high neck lines, and often times sleeves. The aesthetic appeal of these suites was almost nonexistent. In fact, they were made of flannel or wool in order to maintain warmth in the icy waters [2].

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As the 19th century approached, the sleeves of the bathing suits were slowly eliminated, and a deeper neckline was established. To avoid exposure as a result of the shorter length, weights were sewn into the hemlines [2]. Around 1920 is when aesthetics came into play causing the swimwear industry to expand. Nearing the middle of the 19th century, the one-piece swimsuit emerged using movies and advertisement to promote the look.

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Today, swimsuits have become a staple of aquatic sports including features such as aerodynamic qualities and fabrics. Many companies claim through the use of the visually appealing aesthetics that certain swimsuits will make athletes “faster” or more “elite”. Whether this is true or not, aesthetically pleasing suits are continuing to take swimwear lines by storm.

Citations:

  • https://allthatsinteresting.com/history-of-womens-swimwear [1]
  • https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-swimsuits-1992446 [2]
  • https://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/style/fashion/trends-looks/great-great-grandmas-swimsuit-was-hot-mess.htm [3]
  • https://www.speedousa.com/men [4]
  • https://www.zaful.com/high-cut-pineapple-print-bikini-set-p_299479.html [5]
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2 Comments. Leave new

Fatema Alhalal
January 27, 2019 7:39 pm

This is an interesting aesthetic topic to choose and I liked it. I’m a swimmer and actually I’m a swimwear collector! I have never thought about how it was developed and I enjoyed reading about it. I’m now actually interested about the men swimwear and how it was developed and I think it’s a good idea to compare between them. I’m curious if it started as conservative as women’s or not. I agree with the visually appealing swimsuit and I care about the color I’m wearing to swim!

Reply

I love the analysis of how swimwear has changed throughout the ages. It is fascinating to see the evolution of swimwear, especially s a competitive swimmer myself. However, I get rather confused in your last paragraph where you state that, “Many companies claim through the use of the visually appealing aesthetics that certain swimsuits will make athletes “faster” or more “elite.” As I stated, I was a competitive swimmer and I know from having to purchase swimsuits for competitions that it isn’t the design that makes them faster but rather the material the swimsuit is made out of. Outside of this, this was a good read

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